Take the Temperature of Your Firm’s Hospitality

Many firms are struggling with staffing issues that range from finding people, to developing a team, to keeping quality people excited about the future succession of their firm. In fact firms will tell you the concept of finding high quality, experienced staff, while great in theory, is a myth. They hear stories that people are out there yet that is not their reality. At the same time we see, from the hundreds of firms we work with, that good people are regularly leaving firms for another one down the street. Why are they taking off in the first place and what can be done to minimize these situations with your team?

Here in Nashville we have a term we refer to when people are coming to visit. It’s called ‘southern hospitality’ and is meant to be the way you treat people when you are with them. In his book, Setting The Table, highly successful, New York restaurateur Danny Meyers takes hospitality to another level when he says “hospitality is the foundation of my business philosophy. Virtually nothing else is as important as how one is made to feel in any business transaction.”

Used in this context I would consider the employer / employee relationship the ultimate, business transaction whereby people are being paid for their time and on a daily basis are choosing to continue doing business with their employer. Today, the best employees in firms have buying power and can choose to take their business elsewhere. They sometimes do, which is why The Rainmaker Companies consults with firms who tell us things like ‘we have no one below partner level that can run the business’ or ‘we have trouble keeping staff happy and motivated’. In some cases, unbeknownst to them, their best staff have already come and gone.

Poll any group of firm leaders and a majority of them will tell you that development of their team is an extremely important, if not the most critical, part of their business. Question the staff of these same firms and many of them will likely tell you there are limited opportunities in their firm to learn, grow, and advance. This is a major disconnect. I have had business owners over the years complain that they fear training people, only to see watch them walk out the door. Well, what if you don’t train them and they stay? Your people are the lifeblood of your future firm and will be the ones you look to when you are ready to exit.

Our team recently worked with a firm that needed assistance with their succession plans. Out of five partners in this firm, three of them will hit the firm’s mandatory retirement age of 65 within the next five years, which potentially leaves the two remaining partners in somewhat of a bind with a lot on their plate in terms of developing people, transitioning clients, and making sure there are rainmakers in the firm who can make up for the business generators who are walking out the door soon. Luckily the partner group is fully committed to putting in the effort to create a smooth transition in the coming years; however it is a difficult road to get from here to there.

So back to the hospitality in your firm, how do you make people feel? Are your younger people given development opportunities on top of the mandatory technical requirements, which ultimately helps them become high quality, experienced staff? Are you growing the business so your people can see a career in front of them, which may even involve partnership? Do they want to do business with you or do they have to?

The Rainmaker Companies offers a cultural development program called Five-Star Client Service that is patterned after the hospitality you receive in a Five-Star restaurant. The philosophy behind Five-Star is that you cannot provide better service to your external clients than the service you provide to each other internally. All of your firm’s success is dependent on this type of internal culture and the way people feel about working with your firm. It also greatly impacts how they perform. This culture makes it possible to attract quality people to join your team and keep quality people in place who will one day be in a solid position to compensate outgoing partners and take the firm to new heights. At The Rainmaker Companies, it is our pleasure and fortune to be able to serve and learn from so many high quality firms around the world. It is truly a great profession and we hope that if we can of assistance, you will reach out to us. The Rainmaker Companies can help you Grow Your FirmGrow Your Practice, or Grow Your Self.

Patrick Pruett – Executive Vice President of The Rainmaker Companies